Getting stoned with comedian Sam Tallent
Sam Tallent officiating at the marriage-vow renewal of Christopher and Bethany Baker.
The members of the Fine Gentleman's Club make no secret about how much they love getting high. Over the last year, some of us at Westword have had a lot of fun smoking up with comedians and musicians and asking them oddball questions that have nothing to do with anything important. In the course of interviewing standup comedian Sam Tallent for this week's cover story on FGC, we took some extra time and got blitzed with this giant of humor and chat about why stoned crowds don't laugh, Grecian mobsters with ice cream, and whether or not he would eat a talking goat.
Westword: I hear a lot of comics bemoan the prospect of performing for a stoned audience, while they themselves will often be high on stage.
Sam Tallent: It sucks. No one laughs. Those 420 shows with the heavy stoner audiences, those are dab-people, or blunt-in-the-morning people. They're not the people who get stoned and giggle like they just ate some mushrooms. This crowd has probably been stoned all day, and then they're getting stoned at the show, and instead of laughing they're like, "Right on, man." There's a lot of agreement from them.
I assume that's because they're taking things so seriously. If you're commenting on relationships or politics or anything heavy, they're locked in their heads.
Yeah, I've never thought about that. But that's true, they're over-thinking all the jokes. "Oh, man, life is fucked." I know that when I'm stoned all day, I'm not laughing audibly.
I remember once smoking pot with you right before you were opening for Adam Cayton-Holland's album recording. Once inside, I became overwhelmed with how high I was, but then you came on the stage ready to perform, and I remember thinking how terrifying it would be to try and entertain strangers in that state. How do you do it?
I've been stoned every day since ninth grade, so it's not really a thing to me. I started smoking weed [off the stage] because I was afraid, and I drank because I was afraid.
Did it help?
Who knows? I was already stoned. Maybe I'd smoke a little more, or try not smoking. When I did improv I wouldn't smoke three hours before a show, because I wanted to be sharp. But I think I'm looser when I'm stoned on stage. When I'm sober I'm like, "Oh, man, these people paid to be here, I really gotta deliver." But when I'm stoned it's like, "Hey, this is a party!"
I have been too stoned on stage before. That happens. I get too fucking dumb up there.
If you could be a monster in any horror film, what would you be?
I'd be Grendel, man. Grendel from Beowulf. I'd be a misunderstood monster from a different part of town. People would think I was a total weirdo and would chase me with torches, but all I'd want is to go to town and have a beer with some Vikings, but no one would give me a chance.
Would you rather have complete inner peace, or ultimate success as a comedian?
Inner peace, because then I wouldn't need comedy. Wouldn't we all rather have inner peace?
On the surface, yes, but I think a lot of creative people have a kind of martyrdom about their art. They sacrifice health and happiness for the possibility of making something really good. It's a religious mentality, like a monk setting himself on fire.
You wouldn't need your art if you were happy and peaceful. I don't know, doesn't all good art come from trying to figure out why you're sad? I've always said that I wouldn't be happy if I quit standup, but if you gave me complete inner peace, I wouldn't need the thing that makes me happy.
Have you had many day jobs?
No. I haven't had a "job" job since I was twenty. I drove an ice-cream truck.
Would you get high beforehand?
Before, during. They gave me a fucking truck, with a cooler in it, and said go drive really slowly and eat ice cream. So I'd pick up my buddy Bonzo, we'd get high in the truck all day, have some beers in the cooler, fuck with the inventory sheets. It was a straight-cash job.
I think it was just a front for the Grecian mob of Commerce City. The dudes who ran it had names like Johnny Flash and Knucks, and this old dude who didn't speak English. He'd count the money and give these muscle guys the nod if you were okay on your cash.
Would you recommend that other people abandon day jobs if they're pursuing a creative field?
You gotta do what you love.
Most people don't.
Yeah, because they're afraid.
Do you think you've become a better comedian because you have to perform each night to pay the bills?
Yeah, dude, I didn't take a night off for like four years. When I started hard in '07 until the end of 2010, I was out there every single night. I'm still a mic-rat. Christie Buchele's a mic-rat, and that's how she's gotten so good.
Some people are naturally good comics, and some people have to figure out the mechanisms by doing it all the time. Jordan Doll has always been funny; Christie Buchele has gotten funny in the right context. On stage, both of them are rippers. Chris Charpentier doesn't go to many mics, but he's so likeable on stage and his jokes are so solid that he doesn't have to go to open mics.
So, after your plane crashes in the Himalayas you meet the world's only talking goat. Everyone on the plane is dead but you. This goat can not only speak, but can read minds. The goat lays some wisdom on you and suddenly you are convinced that he has the potential to be a nation-building diplomat that will end world hunger and bring peace to Sudan.
Word comes through your radio that you are going to be rescued, but it is going to take two weeks for the Sherpas to reach you.
I'd eat the goat.
That was what I was getting at, yes. But I figured you'd need to mull it over for a bit.
No one's going to save this country, no one's going to save the world.
I love that that is what you find most implausible about the scenario: The saving of America.
[Laughs.] Yeah, I can't hang with that.
But sure, if you can guarantee that he's going to end hunger and wealth disparity, I will eat my own fucking arm.
Although you'd enter a state of starvation, which closes down portions of the brain until you enter a state of madness.
Oh, I'd go fucking nuts. I've been food-crazy before. I'll leave that goat alone, though. We're in the Himalayas, there are other goats -- or I'll eat some lichen. But if I'm going food-crazy, can I trust this goat? If there was a third party, some hashish-rollin' Nepalese temple-man convinces me that this goat is the answer to the world's problems, then I'm going hungry, man. I'm dying.
Would you rather be a cellphone or a pack of cigarettes?
Pack of smokes. Shorter life-span, look cooler. I don't want someone rubbing my face with their thumbs. I just want to be held from the ankles and slowly burned down. Actually, I'm a pack of smokes, I'm not even the actual cigarettes. I'm just the cardboard. I get to hangout with smokes all day!
A pack of Marlboro reds. Hugging those goddamn cowboy killers. Marlboro reds are the coolest thing America has ever made. They're the Coca-Cola of cool.
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